Do Fish Have an Absolute Sense of Light Intensity?

  • J. H. S. Blaxter
Part of the NATO Advanced Study Institutes Series book series (NSSA, volume 1)


The appreciation of intensity is based on a number of physiological characteristics. One of the most striking attributes of the sense organs, especially of sight and hearing, is their versatility in terms of the range of intensity which they can appreciate, of the order of 12 logarithmic units from the minimum threshold to the maximum level “bearable”. Fechner’s Law states that the “sensation” is proportional to the logarithm of the stimulus intensity (Fig. 1A), which means that visual or auditory perception goes through a process opposite to amplification. Putting it very simply, the sensory system in some way reduces the range of “sensation” perceivable from about one million million to only 12 times. In the case of vision the versatility of the eye is aided by the presence in many animals of rods and cones with a mechanism of dark-and light-adaptation.


Light Intensity Vertical Migration Visual Pigment Diel Vertical Migration Pacific Salmon 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Ali, M.A. (1959) The ocular structure, retinomotor and photobeha-vioural responses of the juvenile Pacific salmon. Can. J. Zool. 37: 965–996.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Ali, M.A. (1964) Retinomotor responses in the enucleated eyes of the brown bullhead Ictalurus nebulosus and the goldfish Caras-sius auratus. Revue Can. Biol. 23: 55–66.Google Scholar
  3. Blaxter, J.H.S. (1970) 2.Light.2.3Animals.2.32.Fishes. In Marine Ecology Vol. Pt. 1 pp. 213–320, edited by O. Kinne, Wiley Interscience, London.Google Scholar
  4. Blaxter, J.H.S. (1975) The role of light in the vertical migration of fish — a review. Symp. Br. Ecol. Soc. (in press).Google Scholar
  5. Blaxter, J.H.S. and Parrish, B.B. (1965) The importance of light in shoaling, avoidance of nets and vertical migration by herring. J. Cons. Perm. Int. Explor. Mer. 30: 40–57.Google Scholar
  6. Boden, B.P. and Kampa, E.M. (1967) The influence of natural light on the vertical migration of an animal community in the sea. Symp. Zool. Soc. Lond. 19: 15–26.Google Scholar
  7. Clarke, G.L. and Backus, R.H. (1964) Interrelations between vertical migration and deep scattering layers, bioluminescence and changes in daylight in the sea. Bull. Inst. Oceanogr. Monaco 64: (1318), 36pp.Google Scholar
  8. Clarke, G.L. and Denton, E.J. (1962) Light and animal life. In the Sea Vol. 1, pp. 456–468, edited by M.N. Hill, Wiley, New York.Google Scholar
  9. Denton, E.J. and Nicol, J.A.C. (1964) The chorioidal tapeta of some cartilaginous fishes (Chondrichthyes). J. Mar. Biol. Ass. U.K. 44: 219–258.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Dowling, J.E. (1967) The site of visual adaptation. Science 155: 273–279.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Nicol, J.A.C. (1965) Migration of chorioidal tapetal pigment in the spur dog Squalus acanthias. J. Mar. Biol. Ass. U.K. 45: 405–427.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Nomura, M. (1960) Some knowledge on behaviour of fish schools. Proc. Indo-Pacific Fish. Coun. 8th session (111), 95–96.Google Scholar
  13. Postuma, K.H. (1957) The vertical migration of feeding herring in relation to light and vertical temperature gradient. Cons. Perm. Int. Explor. Mer, Herring Cttee. (mimeo).Google Scholar
  14. Schüler, F. (1954) Uber die echographische Aufzeichnung des Verhaltens von Meeresfischen während der Sonnenfinsternis vom 30 Juni 1954. Dt. Hydrogr. Z. 7: 141–143.Google Scholar
  15. Tytler, P. and Blaxter, J.H.S. (1973) Adaptation by cod and saithe to pressure changes. Neth. J. Sea. Res. 7: 31–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Woodhead, P.M.J. (1966) The behaviour of fish in relation to light in the sea. Oceanogr. Mar. Biol. Ann. Rev. 4: 337–403.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1975

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. H. S. Blaxter
    • 1
  1. 1.Dunstaffnage Marine Research LaboratoryOban, ArgyllScotland

Personalised recommendations